I’ll be the first to admit it: I never used to cut steak against the grain. Unfortunately, that meant I had to endure tougher, chewier, and less flavorful cuts for a long time! But no more!
Cutting steaks and other cuts against the grain is crucial in cooking meats. It helps make the cut more tender to melt in your mouth. It’s also a way to retain more juice and flavor.
What Is The Grain of Meat?
Don’t confuse the “grain” of meat with ingredients like wheat, barley, and oats. This type of grain refers to the direction the meat’s muscle fibers are running.
Identifying the direction of the grain has many benefits and will ensure that your cooked steak has a much better flavor and texture.
Now, I’ll admit, at first, this does seem like quite the advanced cooking or butchering technique. Especially because everybody always says “cut against the grain,” but nobody explains what that means!
But today, I will simplify the entire process. In reality, this technique is SO easy, and you’ll be stunned why nobody takes the time to properly explain it, especially because you should be applying it for so many reasons.
Why Is It Important To Know How To Cut Steak Against The Grain?
As I’ve mentioned, there are MANY benefits to cutting against the grain in a steak.
Arguably the biggest of them all is how cutting meat against the grain affects the final texture of the meat.
If you want your steak to have a tender texture, it has to have short muscle fibers. Chewy pieces of meat have long muscle fibers.
When you cut against the grain, it helps make the muscle fibers shorter. But cutting parallel to the grain would create long muscle fibers, making each piece tough and chewy.
So again, the golden rule is to cut meat AGAINST the grain.
The second reason you should cut across the grain and not parallel to it is that more juices are retained.
How To Identify The Grain
Before simply cutting your steak or other meat cuts, you first have to identify the direction of the grain.
Place the piece of meat in front of you on a cutting board. The muscle fibers almost look like a bunch of strands running in a single direction.
Once you’ve identified that direction, you know how to cut across them.
All this being said, and as easy as it sounds, different cuts have different grains. There isn’t a one-direction-fits-all answer.
Another factor that will affect the direction of the grain is how your butcher cuts the meat. So, if you have two fillet steaks from two different butchers, the grain may still run in a different direction depending on the angle they used to cut it.
How To Cut A Steak Against The Grain
Now that you know how to identify the grain, it’s time to cut your meat.
- Place the meat in front of you on a sturdy chopping board. Use a sharp knife and keep a serving plate close to transfer the cut pieces immediately.
- Identify the grain and place your knife at a 90-degree angle against it.
- Cut the beef against the grain through in one swift slice. Set the piece aside and continue cutting the meat into relatively thin slices.
How To Cut Other Meat Cuts Against The Grain
The process stays the same; the direction of cutting just changes.
Make sure you have correctly identified the grain before you start cutting. Remember, if you don’t cut across it, you’ll make the meat chewier and less juicy.
The only problem some other cuts may present you with is bones. In this case, you cannot easily cut through an entire meat section. The bone may be in the way.
Typically, the meat’s grain runs at a right angle to the bone. However, it’s always important to verify this.
Tips And Tricks On How To Cut Steak Against The Grain
Even if you cut against the grain of a steak, it doesn’t guarantee the meat will be tender and juicy. If the slices you make are very thick, the piece will stay quite chewy.
So, for the best results, cut the slices into 1/4-1/2 inch thick pieces.
Furthermore, it will help if you rest the steak before cutting it. Resting meat helps ensure that the muscle fibers reabsorb the juices. This means the juices won’t immediately ooze out after cutting them (after about 5-10 minutes).
Trust me: it’s another one of those easy steps that too many people avoid completely.
No. The grill marks don’t give you ANY indication of the direction of the grain. The marks are caused by the Maillard reaction (caramelization). So to ensure you know the direction of the grain, check out the cut before and after cooking it.
As with red meats such as pork and beef, you should cut chicken against the grain. It pretty much goes the same for all poultry. The problem with cutting chicken against the grain is that the grain curves. It essentially makes it impossible to make precise cuts. But even a rough attempt will make a significant difference in texture.
This is another trick people use to shorten the muscle fibers and increase the tenderness of the piece you just cut. Cutting the steak at a 45-degree angle (against your cutting board) will increase the surface area of the slice, breaking down more muscle fibers.